Federal authorities decided Tuesday to convene a grand jury to question reluctant witnesses who may have information about last month’s abduction and slaying of three Yosemite sightseers.
The grand jury will be based in Fresno and is expected to begin calling witnesses next week in connection with the killing of Eureka resident Carole Sund, her teenage daughter and a teenage friend from Argentina.
FBI spokesman Nick Rossi characterized the move as “one more investigative tool to gather information” and emphasized that the decision “does not signal that charges are imminent.”
Officials from the U.S. attorney’s office in Fresno, prosecutors from Tuolumne and Stanislaus counties, the Tuolumne County sheriff and the FBI met Tuesday in Sonora to make the final decision to convene the grand jury.
Sund, 42, her daughter, Juliana, 15, and friend Silvina Pelosso, 16, vanished in mid-February while visiting Yosemite National Park, and their disappearance has drawn international attention.
The mother’s charred remains were found March 18 in Tuolumne County in her burned and abandoned rental car. Investigators say they believe that a second body found in the car was Silvina’s. Juliana’s body was discovered Thursday in a thicket at a scenic viewpoint overlooking a reservoir along the road to Yosemite.
No arrests have been made, but five men detained in recent weeks on other charges or parole violations are under scrutiny.
Authorities have dubbed the massive manhunt operation TourNap and have assigned more than two dozen FBI agents and local investigators to the case.
In addition, profilers from the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime have aided in the investigation since Sunday.